“The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” ~Jill Churchill~
My son was diagnosed with ADHD in November of 2013. He was 6 years old. We always knew Colton was a little more special than other children. However, when you only have one child and that child is the only child you interact with on a regular basis, you don’t realize that your child is that different. We just thought he was very active (which he is….). He struggled in Kindergarten but we, of course, blamed the teacher (and the school system, the curriculum, the school itself….you get the picture). We were in denial that there was anything wrong with our child. How could there be? If there was something wrong with him then that means we failed as parents, didn’t it?? So we made excuses and shifted blame. Then first grade came around. Holy crap!! We struggled…he struggled…the teacher struggled. Then the call came from the principal. They wanted to send him back to Kindergarten. He wasn’t ready for first grade. Wait, what? Not ready? He had the same problems in Kindergarten. How is sending him back going to help him move forward?? That first meeting with the principal, the teacher, and the special education teacher was one of the worst days I can remember. I cried. Literally, broke down and sobbed in the conference room because they were telling me my little boy wasn’t good enough (at least that’s what I heard). So I told them we needed to find an alternate solution. I formally requested that they evaluate him for a learning disability. My son was smart. I knew he was smart. Why couldn’t he do for them what he did for me at home? He could tell me 15 different dinosaur species and what characteristics made them different (how many toes they had for goodness sakes!!) so why couldn’t he reliably name the letters of the alphabet for them? I left the school feeling like my world had been turned upside down. So I did what every girl does when she needs a hug. I called my mom. And then I called my sister. They both felt as betrayed as I did….but they had noticed the issues too. Where had I been? Was I just being an ostrich? Or was I just too close to see? Either way, I felt it was my duty to my son to make sure he got whatever help he needed to succeed. So I asked around and found a good behavioral pediatrician. Then the testing began. And the questionnaires…I think I spent two weeks answering the same questions over and over…and over again. Things that I truly didn’t think mattered that much. Did it matter that he walked a little late? Or that he was clumsy? Things that I never paid much attention to now stood out as symptoms of a bigger issue. How could I have missed those things?? Finally, after about two months of on going testing and doctor’s visits, we had a diagnosis….Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder…..ADHD….but wait…wasn’t that just a myth? I thought that was just something parents fell back on when they couldn’t get their kids to behave. So they just doped them up so they would be little zombies and the parents wouldn’t have to deal with their bratty kid anymore. That’s what ADHD is right? Just a reason to medicate your kids? My kid didn’t need medication. I didn’t mind that he was hyper. I like that he would rather run around outside than play video games. What’s wrong with that? But then I started reading. And I researched and I read and I researched and I read. What I discovered scared the crap out of me and gave me hope at the same time. Maybe with a little help, Colton could start doing better in school. So I agreed to give him a prescription medication for ADHD. The first round was a disaster. He had a 12 hour meltdown. We’re talking lose-your-mind, can’t-stop-crying, think-he’s-going-to-die meltdown. WTF?? I thought this stuff was supposed to help!! So back to the doctor we go. Turns out that can happen. Great…just great. So here we go again. Medicine #2. This time it didn’t seem to hurt him but it didn’t seem to help him a whole lot either. After a month of that, the doctor suggests we up the dose. So we move him up to 10mg of Adderall instead of 5mg. For the first week or so, we didn’t see much difference. But then something happened. The lightbulb went on. He started making 100s on his spelling tests. His behavior chart starting showing yellow lights (those are good btw). He started advancing reading levels. Now, after 3 months of being medicated, he has improved more than I had ever thought possible. We are still going to have to hold him back in 1st grade. There just isn’t enough time left in the year for him to catch up to where he needs to be. But there is hope that he will be able to catch up next year and maybe, just maybe, be that A/B student I know he wants to be. I still struggle with giving my son medicine. I don’t like that a 7 year old has to take a medicine that is so highly regulated I feel like a criminal when I go to the pharmacy to pick it up. But I watch him do his homework in 30 minutes now instead of three hours and I think “OK, maybe you just need to get past those stereotypes and do what’s best for YOUR kid”. Oh, I still get the comments when someone finds out he has ADHD. You know the ones….”In my day, that was just a kid being a kid”, “Well that’s just a boy for you, he doesn’t need medicine”, “I don’t think medicating your kid into a zombie is the best answer”, “Can’t you just change his diet and fix the issue….all those preservatives nowadays are what’s causing the problem”. And on…and on…and on. First, let me say this. Medication has in no way slowed my son down. He is still a VERY active child. He loves to run and play and be a boy! I have looked into the diet change as an alternative and most reputable sources have debunked it. I have a hard enough time getting him to eat without taking away his favorite foods so we aren’t going that route. All I know is that, on his medicine, my son is able to focus and channel his energy into being a productive little person. Without his medicine, I watch him try to write his name three times until he gives up crying because he keeps writing a “3” instead of a “C”. He knows how to spell his name but without the medicine, he isn’t able to organize his brain and his hand to work together. I don’t judge those people that judge me as a parent. I used to BE those people. Now the veil has been lifted and I feel so much more enlightened. If you are the parent of an ADHD child or suspect that you are the parent of an ADHD child, I hope this blog helps you to see that there are plenty of us out there. We need to support each other because we are the few who understand. If you are not the parent of an ADHD child, I hope this blog helps you understand what others are experiencing and maybe helps you to be less judgmental when someone says their child has ADHD. It is a REAL disorder. We didn’t just make it up so that we could dope up our kids. We care about our children. We want them to succeed. That means that sacrifices must be made. I hope you all enjoy this blog and I hope to be able to post once a week. Feel free to share your stories as well!!